Buying a Prepaid SIM Card in Kiribati Guide

Logos of Telecom Providers in Kiribati: ATHKL

Some think that Kiribati is one island. Instead, it consists of 33 coral atolls in the Central Pacific.

Tarawa has plenty of lagoons to explore, and Kiritimati is known for fly-fishing and scuba diving. Tabuaeran is a remote island with plenty of white-sand beaches, and Caroline Island has beautiful coral reefs to be seen. You will not be bored when in Kiribati.

What you may not want to do is to roam with your provider in Kiribati. Roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why seasoned travelers prefer to buy local SIM cards in Kiribati.

In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Kiribati. Let's get started.

Telecom Provider in Kiribati

Kiribati has 1 telecom provider, which is ATHKL (also known as ATH). ATHKL used only to have a 2G network, but they now have 3G and 4G/LTE networks.

Like most countries in Oceania, you do not have to show your passport when buying a SIM card in Kiribati.

There is not much more to say about Kiribati, so let’s see what ATHKL has to offer to us.

Tip: Looking for cheap flights? Book with AirWander and add stopovers! Not in a hurry yet? Set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog and get notified when ticket prices for your preferred route(s) drop!

ATHKL

ATHKL is the sole operator in Kiribati. The network is linked to a satellite, which often means slow speeds for high prices. In 2020, a new submarine cable called Southern Cross Next Cable is expected to be laid down and should allow for faster speeds and lower prices.

Nevertheless, speeds are decent enough that you can watch YouTube videos and make VoIP calls without any problems.

Some other island nations will charge you much more than ATHKL does while providing slower speeds, so ATH is doing a good job already, and I expect their network to be even better soon.

For 5 AUD ($3.45), you can buy an ATHKL SIM card that comes with no perks. SIM cards can be bought in ATHKL’s main office in Tarawa. Recharge cards are sold from 5 AUD to 50 AUD. The following data packages can be bought:

  • 2 AUD: 1 GB from 12 AM to 6 AM (one time)
  • 2 AUD: 200 MB for 24 hours
  • 4 AUD: 600 MB for 24 hours
  • 5 AUD: 450 MB for 7 days
  • 6 AUD: 800 MB for 7 days
  • 7 AUD: 1 GB for 7 days
  • 20 AUD: 2.8 GB for 30 days
  • 30 AUD: 4 GB for 30 days

ATHLK also sells a data-only SIM card for its mobile hotspot (pocket WIFI), which will cost you 49 AUD. Regular data packs are much cheaper than the data-only ones, which is why I would not recommend getting it.

Data pack prices range from 5 AUD for 150 MB (for 6 days) to 50 AUD for 6 GB (for 30 days). They also sell a 4G/LTE router for 79 AUD. The monthly packages for that device range from 100 AUD for 10 GB to 400 AUD for 40 GB.

Let’s say you want 40 GB. You would have to buy the 30 AUD 4 GB ten times, which would cost you 300 AUD, while for the 4G/LTE router, you would pay 400 AUD + 79 AUD for the router, making it a total of 479 AUD. You could buy the 30 AUD 4 GB package 6 more times for an extra 24 GB.

Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Kiribati

Now you know everything about buying a SIM card in Kiribati, but what are your other options? Although buying a local SIM card is almost always the cheapest option, the cheapest option would be using free WIFI connections in Kiribati, but you can also roam with your provider in Kiribati, use an international SIM card in Kiribati, or use a mobile hotspot in Kiribati. Let’s see what our options are.

Using Free WIFI hotspots in Kiribati

Using something free is always better than paying for something. However, sometimes, free stuff may be of bad quality. Sure, you do not have to pay anything for using a free hotspot (unless you are required to purchase a beverage or meal at an establishment), but it may be a challenge to find a free hotspot. Moreover, the connection may be so slow that it is practically useless.

In the case of Kiribati, you can find a few hotspots here and there. Do not expect to find many.

Do note that public hotspots are unsecure. Hackers love to steal sensitive information on unprotected connections because it is apparently easy to do so. That is why I use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when using a public hotspot, and I would encourage you to do so too.

What a VPN does is creating an encrypted tunnel between your device and the hotspot so that your data will stay private. I use NordVPN, and you can get up to 70% off when you get a NordVPN subscription. Get your NordVPN subscription now!

Roaming with Your Provider in Kiribati

Roaming is a term used in wireless telecommunication that indicates a mobile device is outside the range of its home network and has connected to a different, available cell network. Let’s say your provider is PalauCel from Palau, then you would be roaming with PalauCel in Kiribati.

Roaming may be the most convenient way of using your phone abroad. You do not have to buy a new SIM card, which, in turn, means you do not have to swap SIM cards. As a result, your friends and family from home can easily reach you on your cell. With many providers, the only thing you need to do is to turn on the data roaming setting on your phone, and you are good to go.

No idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read – promised!

Although roaming with your provider may be the most convenient way of staying connected in Kiribati, it can also be the most expensive option. There have been many horror stories where people have racked up roaming bills up in the thousands and even more than ten thousand.

Luckily, many providers have affordable roaming plans, allow you to roam for free in some destinations like Kiribati, or allow you to use your plan’s allowance in Kiribati. For example, with Virgin Mobile Canada, you can use your plan’s allowance for 12 Canadian dollars per day. This may be affordable in some destinations for a small number of days, but it will be expensive for prolonged periods.

If you are unsure about the roaming options of your provider, I have written many articles about roaming with various operators around the world. I analyze them in-depth and give you my advice on whether you should roam with your provider or not. If yes, I also state for how long you should roam to take the most advantage of the offer.

One thing that should be avoided at all costs is to Pay As You Go roaming where you pay per minute, SMS, or MB. This is how many people get expensive roaming bills because the roaming prices for data are usually extremely high.

If you want to roam, make sure to get a roaming plan. Unless your provider offers extremely low Pay As You Go roaming rates, which is only a handful of providers, then you can consider doing so. Furthermore, if your provider lets you roam for free in Kiribati, then you should go for it. Just note that your speeds will be lower as a roamer than if you were to buy a Kiribati SIM card.

Using an International SIM Card in Kiribati

International SIM cards are SIM cards that work internationally. Most SIM cards do work abroad, but then you have to roam with your provider. International SIM cards, however, let’s you use one SIM card in many destinations around the world for, often, the same price. This way, your friends and families can still reach out to you while traveling.

International SIM cards are, however, much more expensive than buying a local SIM card in many cases, but they are often cheaper than to roam with your provider. There are many international SIM card providers out there, but a few providers I can recommend are OneSimCard, SimOptions, and Surfroam.

International SIM cards are useful for those who frequently travel for leisure or for business. That way, everyone can reach you on one number instead of a handful of local numbers scattered around the world.

Moreover, many destinations in the world require you to register yourself before you can buy a local SIM card. In some countries, the process is quick, while others require much more of your time. Furthermore, the registration process may be cumbersome in countries.

Finally, the language barrier may be off-putting to some. It can be a challenge dealing with a salesperson who does not understand you. They may try and sell you the most expensive option out there. Luckily, you know the prices of SIM cards and packs in Kiribati, so you cannot be taken advantage of.

My recommendation, however, is to get a local SIM card if you are only visiting one destination. If you are visiting multiple destinations in one trip, an international SIM card could be handy. If you want to learn more about international SIM cards, check out my international SIM card comparison article, where I analyze 10 international SIM card providers so that you do not have to.

Using a Mobile Hotspot in Kiribati

A mobile hotspot is a portable, battery-powered wireless router that allows you to connect your phone, laptop, or tablet without needing multiple SIM cards for those devices to be connected to the internet. They are compact and lightweight so that you take them along with you whenever you need internet access on the go.

Many companies have created mobile hotspots (just have a quick search on Amazon, for example, you will find many). Skyroam and Vision Global Wireless are reputable pocket WIFI providers I know. You can get a discount if you rent a router through Skyroam by using coupon code PHONETRAVELWIZ. Cellular access with Skyroam starts at $8 a day while using a Vision Global device starts at $2 a day. Both services cover more than 130 destinations around the world.

I often recommend mobile hotspots to those who are traveling in groups or with families. They can save groups a lot of money if they are visiting destinations where buying multiple SIM cards would become an expensive endeavor.

I recently wrote an article analyzing the 7 Best Mobile Hotspots for Travelers like yourself, which should be an interesting read if pocket WIFI is something you are considering. I do reviews of individual devices every now and then, so check out my mobile hotspot category to stay up to date.

The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Kiribati

Getting a SIM card from ATHKL would be your only when considering a Kiribati SIM card. Be sure to explore the roaming options your provider offers you, as they may offer free or cheap roaming bundles.

You could also consider getting an international SIM card or using a portable hotspot. International SIM cards are attractive for those visiting multiple destinations at once or within a year. Portable hotspots will be useful when traveling with multiple people so that not each individual has to get a SIM card but can use the hotspot.

Visiting other countries in Oceania? Check out my Oceanian SIM card buying guide covering the other Oceanian destinations, such as American Samoa, Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Micronesia, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Wallis and Futuna. Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my sim card buying guides for other destinations around the world.

What is next?

Looking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! Save money on plane tickets, bus rides, cruises, and accommodation. Besides that, I also list services and items I use to make my life easier – and I believe they will help you too!

Book Your Flight for Kiribati

It is time to book your flight. Find cheap flights with AirWander so that you can add free or cheap stopovers in destinations you have not considered yet before going to Kiribati. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Kiribati drop.

Book Your Accommodation for Kiribati

I am a huge fan of Airbnb because it allows me to live with a local or get a local place for myself. Staying in someone’s house or apartment feels much different than being in a ho(s)tel, especially in Kiribati. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Kiribati hotel.

Get Your Travel Insurance for Kiribati

You will regret not having travel insurance once you actually need it and “forgot” to get it. Nowadays, travel insurance is cheap and comprehensive unlike back in the days. World Nomads is by far the best travel insurance for adventurous travelers like yourself. You can even get insured WHILE already traveling in Kiribati, which is not something many insurance companies allow you to do.

Get a Travel Debit Card

Travel Cheques are outdated. Paying with your credit card or debit card can be expensive because of all the exchange commissions banks charge you. TransferWise allows you to convert your main currency to Australian Dollars for a small fee (up to 8 times less than with your bank!) Getting a Transferwise Borderless account is FREE, so you will get an instant return on your investment.

Enjoy your trip!

Ernest Adu

Ernest Adu, going by just Adu, is the founder and editor at Phone Travel Wiz. He has been a traveler for 6 years. Although from Europe, the Netherlands, Adu's favorite region in Asia, in particular, East and Southeast Asia. He currently lives in Tainan, Taiwan, and plans on exploring Oceania and more of East and Southeast Asia.

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